Trade show organizers are swapping face-to-face interactions with computer screens as more high-profile events shift to the Internet because of restrictions on large gatherings intended to slow the spread of COVID-19.
As planners of shows such as CES pivot away from handshakes and event swag during the pandemic, many are tasked with trying to re-create the events virtually — an onerous undertaking with plenty of perils and pluses.
While in-person events offer more possibilities for networking and live demonstrations, virtual shows emphasize the convenience of staying put, lower the barrier to entry and allow more people to participate.
But the accessibility of a virtual format doesn't make planning and preparation any less challenging, said Orlie Gruper, executive director of EcoMotion, a major annual event in Israel that supports the mobility technology ecosystem.
"We went on an adventure," she told Automotive News. "In a month and a half, we shifted everything from physical."
Last year's EcoMotion was held virtually in May — one of the first auto-related events to do so, as the coronavirus continued to spread globally and event planners opted to either postpone or cancel.
"The time was very short for us to gather all the partners, so we definitely had less partners in the 2020 main event than we had the year before that," Gruper said. "I think we came down from 72 partners to 40 supporting the event."